The world-fleshing happens as I write, for the most part. I spent some time early on sketching out the basics of the world, and more when I pitched it to CoG, but it was a matter of dedicated days, not weeks or months.
The day job, on the other hand, ate two whole years of my time during the writing of Game 1, and most of another year was taken in polishing the final draft and publication prep. So I really wrote it over a four year period.
The day job has eaten most of the past year too, alas. I’ve fit in more world fleshing-out and lots of story planning, but the actual writing has been sparse. I can’t promise a Game 2 anytime soon. But as I’ve said elsewhere, my hope is that I’ll get a sabbatical from day-jobbing in a few years’ time, so we may get Games 3, 4, and 5 a little sooner than my track record so far would imply.
Fate880, you can achieve continental power with any combination of skills. To be a nonviolent transformer of the system at scale, you’ll need to max out your Charisma.
For violent rebels, Cha will also certainly help if you’ve got a small faction or none and still want to exert power at continental scale…but there will be other routes to success as a Genghis or Merlin as well.